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Things to Do in Mexico

Mexico conjures images of ancient ruins, colonial towns, endless beaches, and cities pulsing with life. The country's two long coastlines lure travelers with countless opportunities for fun in the sun. On the west coast, the Pacific Pipeline—legendary among surfers—runs from Baja all the way past Puerto Escondido, while the Caribbean side is better known for spectacular coral reefs and warmer, gentler seas. On either coast, you'll find boating, parasailing, diving, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, and more. Whether you prefer the flashy resorts of Los Cabos and Cancun, upscale Playa del Carmen, or the more traditional glamour of Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco, Mexico has a beach town for you. Blessed with natural beauty and a rich heritage, Mexico also boasts the largest number of UNESCO-listed sites in North America, including the Maya ruins of Palenque, Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Coba. From grand colonial cities like Puebla and Oaxaca, to the many "pueblos magicos" (magical towns), such as Taxco and Valladolid, Mexico's colorful streets and regional cuisines never fail to enchant. The country's abundant tropical rainforests are home to a variety of wildlife, and eco-adventure parks like Xel-ha on the Riviera Maya pack in family-style fun with ziplining, hiking, and guided safaris. Many visitors arrive via Mexico City, and while the sprawling capital can be overwhelming at first, don't be deterred. Cultural riches await you, including a world-class art scene, historical museums, cosmopolitan dining, nonstop nightlife, and easy access to the Teotihuacan pyramids. Just don't try to drive.
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Malecón
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Stretching roughly 3 miles (5 kilometers) along the La Paz coastline, the Malecón is a wide boardwalk that’s frequented by travelers, locals, joggers, families, rollerbladers, and cyclists alike. Lined with restaurants, bars, and shops and dotted with sculptures and benches, it’s the ideal spot for a stroll at any time of day and offers sweeping views over the ocean.

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La Quebrada Cliff Divers
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Acapulco's iconic attraction, made famous in Elvis flicks, Ray Austen stunts, and every cheerfully scrawled holiday postcard sent home ever since, are La Quebrada Cliff Divers. Beginning in the 1920s, these brave young men and women began leaping for the crowds some 45 craggy meters (150 terrifying feet) into a wave-crashed inlet just 4 meters (13 feet) deep. And that's if they time it just right.

The ritual begins with a prayer at the shrine to La Virgen de Guadalupe, carved into the cliff-top platform. Then, the divers carefully calculate when their target will have enough water to soften their fall. Finally, they leap. First in the afternoon, and as the sun sets, again. The final dive of the night plunges past torches into a sea of fire (lit with flaming gasoline), no easy feat.

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La Bufadora
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On a peninsula along the Baja California coast, the blowhole ‘La Bufadora’ is a marine geyser that shoots ocean water straight up into the air. It occurs naturally from ocean waves that push water into a sea cavern, which causes the pressure to build and then explode when the water recedes. Depending on the level of the tide, the water can climb as high as 60 feet from the sea.

It’s often seen after a short scenic drive from nearby Ensenada, and has become well known as a natural phenomenon of the area. Legend explains that one of the many grey whales that migrate off the coast here swam too close to shore, and that the geyser is reminiscent of the whale’s spout while waiting to be discovered. There are always beautiful views of the coast here, and a small local square with shops and restaurants nearby.

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Xihuacan Museum and Archaeological Site (Museo Xihuacan)
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Opened to the public in 2013, the Xihuacan Museum and Archeological Site offers a unique look at a pre-Columbian temple site as archeologists uncover it. Located in the area around Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, the archeological site include a religious pyramid about 45 feet tall and 300 feet square at the base, which remains only partially uncovered, and an ancient ball court that is one of the largest ancient courts in Mexico, second only to Chichen Itza’s. The nearby museum houses around 800 artifacts uncovered at the site, including ancient pottery, tools and art works, along with exhibits about the people who inhabited the area across more than four millennia.

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Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California)
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The Sea of Cortez (or Gulf of California) lies between the Baja California Peninsula and mainland Mexico. This stretch of the Pacific, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most diverse seas in the world and home to more than 3,000 marine species, including hammerhead sharks, sea lions, and sea turtles.

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Rio Secreto Nature Reserve
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Rio Secreto, or the “Secret River,” is a series of caves carved out by the flow of an ancient underground river in Mexico. While the reserve is most famous for its large half-sunken cavern—a popular diving spot—you can also explore eerie passageways, swim in the river, and admire dripping stalactites, stalagmites, and colorful mineral formations.

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Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra)
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With calmer, warmer waters than other popular beaches in Mazatlán, plenty of opportunity for snorkeling, and several open-air seafood restaurants, Stone Island is one of the most popular day trip destinations in Mazatlán. Palm-lined Isla de la Piedra—which is not technically an island—is also a hub of soft adventure activity, such as horseback riding and hiking, as well as relaxation.

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Our Lady of Pilar Church (Misión de Nuestra Señora del Pilar)
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Set against the sweeping backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the 18th-century Our Lady of Pilar Church (Misión de Nuestra Señora del Pilar) is the town’s most notable religious edifice. Originally built by Spanish missionaries and characterized by a yellow facade, an altar surrounded by stained glass, and sweeping views over the ocean, Our Lady of Pilar Church is a Todos Santos must-see.

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Tulum
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Tulum, the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city and a port for Coba, is one of the best preserved coastal Mayan cities in the Yucatan, in tandem with Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. Highlights of this archaeological site include the Temple of the Frescoes, which has spectacular figurines of the 'diving god.'

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Macroplaza (La Gran Plaza)
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Build in the early 1980s, this popular town square is a hub for commerce and the fourth-largest plaza of its kind in the world. Impressive monuments line the pedestrian zone, including Faro del Comercio, which shoots green laser lights into the city sky each night.

Visitors to the plaza can wander the halls of the Palacio de Gobierno, where local government offices are located, or explore the Biblioteca Fray Servando Teresa de Mier—the city’s iconic public library. Visitors can escape the noise of the city in nearby Jardin Hundido—located at the center of Macroplaza—where quiet fountains and well-kept gardens provide a true urban oasis.

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More Things to Do in Mexico

Mr. Sancho's Beach Club Cozumel

Mr. Sancho's Beach Club Cozumel

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Set on a private stretch of white sand, Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club Cozumel allows you to avoid the island’s beachfront crowds and offers amenities for a relaxing seaside experience. Here you can swim in the Caribbean ocean, sample all you can eat from the restaurant and bar, float in the infinity pool, and relax in shaded cabanas.

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Taxco

Taxco

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High in the rugged mountains of the northern state of Guerrero, the city of Taxco de Alarcon was once an isolated Spanish stronghold. Today, it is known for its silver mines and the generations of artisans who create some of Mexico's most beautiful jewelry. In addition to the silver shops, take in the town’s architectural and natural attractions.

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Querétaro

Querétaro

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Looking for a quaint escape from the hustle and bustle of Mexico City? Queretaro is the place for you. With the full name of Santiago de Quertetaro, this town is the capital of the small but diverse Mexican state of Queretaro.

A step back into colonial times, Queretaro is known for its history, culture and pink stoned walls. See the Art Museum, the Regional Museum or the odd but pleasurable Mathematics Museum. The city center has some affordable street vendors selling local arts and crafts, and the colonial center of the city has two bullrings. Not too far from Mexico City, here you can find not just stimulating history and good shopping but also great traditional Mexican food as well. Memos, Che Che, and Los Compadres all serve up great traditional Mexican fare at a fair price all in the historic city center.

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Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan

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Known as the City of the Gods, Teotihuacán was the metropolis of a mysterious Mesoamerican civilization that reached its zenith around AD 100. Once the largest city in the region but abandoned centuries before the arrival of the Aztecs, Teotihuacán boasts towering pyramids and stone temples with detailed statues and intricate murals.

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Merida Cathedral (Catedral de San Ildefonso)

Merida Cathedral (Catedral de San Ildefonso)

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The second oldest cathedral in the Americas, the Mérida Cathedral (Catedral de San Ildefonso) was built atop a Mayan temple in the 16th century. Notable for its relatively austere façade and surprisingly stark Moorish interior, Mérida Cathedral also houses some of Mérida’s most significant religious artifacts, including the Christ of Blisters statue.

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Huatulco National Park (Parque Nacional Huatulco)

Huatulco National Park (Parque Nacional Huatulco)

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In 1998 this national park, which spans tens of thousands of acres of Oaxaca countryside, was declared a protected area and later designated as a UNESCO Biosphere reserve. As a result, Huatulco National Park has become a destination for travelers looking to get back to nature and spot rare species of animals and birds that exist nowhere else in the world.

Exhaustive conservation efforts have preserved the ecosystems of the tropical forests, mangroves, coral reefs and wetlands that make up this park. Visitors agree the park’s untouched beauty makes it worth a trip and easy access from nearby Cruz Huatulco means it a breeze to get to. Despite easy access this crystal blue bay manages to remain untouched. So whether it’s charting a boat to snorkel, dive, or fish in the pristine surrounding waters, or lounging on one of the deserted beaches, Huatulco National Park offers visitors a chance to experience the country as it used to be.

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Diego Rivera House-Museum (Museo Casa Diego Rivera)

Diego Rivera House-Museum (Museo Casa Diego Rivera)

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Visit this museum to see Diego Rivera's early childhood home, which has been turned into a museum dedicated to his life and work. Alongside original artworks and the personal effects of Rivera—one of Mexico’s most influential muralists and artists—you may also see temporary exhibits from other artists.

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Mayan Ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá)

Mayan Ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá)

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In the heart of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula lie the ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá), an ancient Maya city considered to be one of the most important settlements in Mesoamerican history. During its peak between AD 500 and 900, Coba housed 50,000 residents and was the central terminus for the complex Maya system of roadways. The jungle site is still being excavated, but visitors can experience the already discovered remains of thesesacbes, or stone causeways, as well as a number of engraved and sculpted monuments.

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Monte Albán

Monte Albán

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One of the oldest cities in the Americas, Monte Albán—an ancient Zapotec capital—is perhaps the most important archaeological site in Oaxaca and among the largest in Mexico. Head to Monte Albán’s flat mountain top for views of the city, then explore the vast site’s temples, tombs, underground tunnels, and ball court.

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Xochimilco

Xochimilco

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With its brightly paintedtrajineras (flat-bottomed boats), traditionalchinampas (floating gardens), and network of flower-perfumed canals, Xochimilco—the “Flower Garden”—is the kind of place that will have you reaching for your camera at every turn.

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Mazatlan Lighthouse (El Faro)

Mazatlan Lighthouse (El Faro)

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Thought to be the highest lighthouse in the Americas, El Faro in Mazatlán sits 523 feet above sea level and has been in operation since 1879. Now a Mazatlán landmark, visitors can walk along the glass lookout platform, admire panoramic views over the port city of Mazatlán, and catch some of the city’s best sunsets.

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Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park

Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park

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With its unspoiled beaches, lush nature trails, and abundance of marine life, Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park is among the highlights of Cozumel, set along the island’s west coast in the area’s National Marine Park. The Chankanaab name comes from the Mayan language and means "little sea," referring to the park’s natural lagoon. The access to the warm, turquoise sea is a top draw, as are the provided lounge chairs and hammocks prime for relaxing on the beautiful beach.

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El Malecon

El Malecon

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Like most boardwalks, Puerto Vallarta’s promenade, known as El Malecon, is dotted with sightseeing opportunities, cafes, shops, galleries, and performers. Overlooking the Bay of Banderas, the mile-long stretch offers scenic views during the day. And in the evening, the waterfront nightclubs and discos open their doors to party-seeking locals and visitors.

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Marietas Islands (Islas Marietas)

Marietas Islands (Islas Marietas)

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The small, uninhabited Marietas Islands (Islas Marietas) are located in the Bay of Banderas off Mexico’s Pacific coast. Making up a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve, the islands are famous for their abundant wildlife and provide a chance to escape the crowds of many Mexican beach resorts, hop on a boat, and explore the islands’ natural delights.

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